You can run up hills, pump iron and swing kettlebells as hard as you like, but it counts for nothing without a proper rest and recovery program, explains race partner Blackroll.
When it comes to training, it’s all about balancing the yin and the yang. “To be successful in sport, you have to take breaks; to become stronger, you need training and sufficient recovery; to perform during the day, you need a good night’s sleep. Recovery after sport is just as important as the training itself,” says Blackroll’s Angela Erfurth.
The self-massage and regeneration brand has come on board as a partner with athletes receiving a recovery pack including foam roller, ball and loop band. Paul Guschlbauer who’s recovering from a broken leg and Laurie Genovese are brand ambassadors.
“I find it beneficial in recovery and use it as extra training equipment,” he says. Laurie is also a fan: “It's really interesting to practice self massage for a better recovery. I'm a physio, so I'm used to this practice. At the end of the day, before sleeping, I try to take few minutes for a bit of stretching and massage. I use the ball for gluteal muscle, it's painful at the moment but it relaxes well afterwards.”
These days, particularly in endurance sports, the foam roller has become as important to an athlete’s equipment as a pair of trainers. The reason? It’s all about your fascia band, says Erfurth.
“Current studies show that fascia training has a positive effect on the muscle soreness that develops after the session and the associated reduced performance.”
The fascia is the net of fibres that hold everything together around the body like a spider’s web, allowing the elastic recoil necessary for performance.
She explains the science: “Our movements run through the fasciae. Our well-being and health are anchored here. And if we are not in harmony, we feel tension and pain through the fasciae. It is believed that when the fasciae ‘stick together’ they can be ‘unrolled’ again with the foam roller. When soft tissue in the body is massaged, the blood circulation and the oxygen supply of the body are improved, waste products are transported away via the lymphs. At the same time, the cells are virtually ‘squeezed out’ by the rolling, so that they can then draw in new nutrients.”
She says you can imagine the fascia like a sponge. When it’s wet it’s elastic and resistant, but when it dries out it becomes brittle and hard. Rolling helps to keep things loose and therefore prevent injury.
The fascia’s importance to endurance runners has grown in recent years. Six years ago Born to Run author Christopher McDougall wrote a new book claiming a mob of Cretan war heroes owed their strength not to conventional physical strength but the ‘fascia profunda’. These days it’s hard to see a fitness blog or video without mention of the fascia.
But the importance of stretching has been around for a while. “Stretching exercises have the advantage of increasing the awareness of individual muscle groups. This leads to targeted relaxation. It also promises faster recovery by increasing blood circulation,” adds Blackroll’s Erfurth. “For optimal recovery after sport, we recommend a combination of rolling and stretching exercises. With little effort and simple exercises, you can significantly improve the flexibility and performance of your muscles.”
She also says that it’s just as important before exercise. “Anyone who does sport should never go into the activity without preparation. The joints must be mobilized. The fasciae, which surround the muscles up to their bony base, must be activated and their adhesions loosened. Improving blood circulation allows a better muscle recruitment during performance, too.”
As athletes take their physical performance as seriously as their flying, we can expect to see them foam rolling more often.
Since 2007, BLACKROLL® has been designing and manufacturing high-quality fascia training equipment together with doctors, trainers and therapists.